Holocaust Survivor Fran Malkin Visits Roosevelt Middle School
WEST ORANGE, NJ – Holocaust survivor and West Orange resident Fran Malkin visited Roosevelt Middle School on May 22 to share her memories of a dark time in history, along with an excerpt from the documentary chronicling her experiences, “No. 4 Street of Our Lady.”
“Once you’ve experienced Fran’s story you will never forget – never forget – that you are a vanquisher of hatred, a diplomat of tolerance, and an ambassador of love,” said ELA teacher Jay Wecht, who teaches students each year about the Holocaust.
Malkin is 81 and one of the few Holocaust survivors still alive. Unfortunately, “thirty-one percent of Americans, and 41 percent of millennials, believe that two million or fewer Jews were killed in the Holocaust; the actual number is around six million. Forty-one percent of Americans, and 66 percent of millennials, cannot say what Auschwitz was. And 52 percent of Americans wrongly think Hitler came to power through force,” in an article published by the New York Times. This makes Malkin’s voice even more important, especially for millennials (1980-1994), Gen Z’s (children born between 1995-2012) and the new Gen Alphas (2013-).
Born in 1938 in the town of Sokal, Poland to candy store owners Lea and Eli Letzer, Fran and her family were thrust into World War II with the invasion of Poland by the Nazis in 1939. They were uprooted and forced to live in a ghetto – a “holding area” said Malkin, until Ukrainians, under the authority of the Gestapo, rounded up Fran’s father and other prominent men in the Jewish community. Years later, the family learned he had been executed outside town and forced to dig his own grave.
“Remember, it was not just Hitler that committed these atrocities,” said Malkin. “Germany was a cultured, civilized nation.”
The Letzers and other family members, 12 in all, arranged to be hidden in a dark hayloft above a pigsty owned by a feisty Roman Catholic named Francisca Halamajowa and her daughter, Hela. It turned out they hid another Jewish family of three in their basement as well.
Four-year-old Fran cried uncontrollably and it was feared she would give away their hiding spot. Dr. David Kindler, a local physician who had taken refuge with the family in the loft, fed the young girl poison to silence her after the family agreed it was necessary. Incredibly, she spit out the poison and survived and at the age of six, the Russians liberated Poland and the family was able to leave the hayloft.
A series of moves and stays in transitional survivor camps, where Fran contracted tuberculosis, followed, until they contacted relatives in the United States who sponsored them for emigration to Newark, NJ, in 1949. Fran learned English, graduated high school, and eventually married and had a daughter. There are 100 descendants of Fran and her relatives alive today.
“Our sense of normalcy was destroyed,” Malkin continued. “People had dreams, they had plans, and were killed only because we were Jewish.”
“You are responsible for the future,” concluded Roosevelt Principal Lionel Hush.
“Take these messages and use them as you are writing your own stories, with no hate, but love.”
To read more about the film and Malkin's story, go to www.streetofourlady.org.
See all the photos from Fran Malkin’s visit to Roosevelt here.
Guests at Fran Malkin's visit: (L-R) BOE President Ken Alper, BOE VP Sandra Mordecai, Board members Terry Triggs-Scales, Cheryl Merklinger and Mark Robertson, Seventh Grade ELA teacher Jay Wecht, Fran Malkin, RMS Principal Lionel Hush, Democratic Committee member Abdur Yasin, former BOE member Paul Petigrow, town Councilwomen Sue McCartney and Michelle Casalino, and former BOE member Laura Lab.
Students listen to Fran Malkin and ask questions.
May 26, 2019